Lifeguards saved two teens from drowning at Ludington’s Stearns Park Sunday and also helped a young girl who got in too deep Friday afternoon. 


Three lifeguards — Spencer Lindbloom, Cassie Sarto and Ryan Russell — were on duty at the time and Ludington Mayor John Henderson said "Sarto brought in one of the boys while Lindbloom brought both the other boy and a local man who was trying to help in to shore."


This is why we have lifeguards at the beach, to provide life-rescuing service,” Henderson added. “I think it is one of the most important programs we have, with six blocks of Lake Michigan beach, it needs to be protected by lifeguards.”


The local man who attempted to help during the rescue is a first responder who was at the beach Sunday with his family when he saw the lifeguards sprint into the water with their rescue tubes. “The man had trouble and needed Lindbloom’s help to get back to shore”, Henderson said.


He said those kids (lifeguards) are in great shape and he had trouble in the water,” Henderson said. “He said Spencer (Lindbloom) was strong enough to pull both (the man and the teen) back in.”  Henderson said “two lifeguards — Dylan Lindbloom and Blake Reimer — helped a girl after she got out in deep water at 4:35 p.m. Friday”.  (Ludington Daily News, 6-29-09)


We didn't always have these young heroes patrolling our shore.  Mayor Henderson made reinstating the lifeguards at Stearn Park a cornerstone of his campaign back in 2001, and he was able to get a lifeguard crew and equipment together the summer after his election.  He pointed to it as the main highlight of his first year (LDN, 12-30-02).


After barely surviving the city budget ax in 2003 (LDN, 11-25-03), the City Manager saved $27,000 by eliminating lifeguards in 2004.  His reason was that his liability insurance provider said it would be worse for the city financially if someone drowned in the presence of lifeguards than if the city did not provide that service, an argument often quoted (LDN, 12-7-04).  Mayor Henderson remained publicly quiet on the topic.


After a two year absence, and during better economic times, lifeguards came back in 2007 and remained until this year, despite continued opposition by Councilor Paul S. Peterson who claimed they were unnecessary, that there is something wrong when Ludington is the only community on the shore of Lake Michigan that has lifeguards, and that the money could be better spent elsewhere (LDN, 11-28-06 and 11-30-07). 


Four months into 2008, a woman publicly thanked the lifeguard Derek Karl for saving the lives of her son and other teens caught in a rip current at Stearn’s beach in 2007 during a city council meeting(no comment from Paul S. Peterson) (LDN, 4-15-08).  This catches us up to this last year’s heroics in June that saved the two boys and a girl that started this thread.

A little over two months later (8-31-09) the city council met in a special session to approve a new project costing $826,440 of public monies.  A new 1,000-foot dock along the north wall of the city marina giving boaters more of an opportunity to visit Ludington. Boaters wouldl be able to tie up to the dock during the day, walk downtown, then choose to get a slip for the night or head back out again.


The goal is to bring more boaters downtown,” said Ludington Mayor John Henderson, who said he had the idea for the project after visiting Pentwater by boat for an evening.  He made a drawing on a napkin and that started the project in motion. That was three years ago (LDN, 9-1-09)


Three years ago coincided with when the City Marina started losing money due to fewer boats and less people boating (LDN 4-17-09).  Sounds like they already have more boat slips than what they need during these times.  This ‘improvement’ does not help Ludington citizens or our tourists except for allowing the affluent among them to park their boat along Loomis St. to maybe save less than a blocks worth of walk to the downtown area.  


Nearly three months later, the budget for 2010 called for cutting five full-time city positions, not hiring lifeguards and other seasonal employees, freezing salaries for two years and raising rates for several city fees.  This was passed two weeks later, with no public comment from Mayor Henderson either time about the lifeguards


He had no accolades for the heroic lifeguards who saved three children and one man just 5 months prior.  No quotes about how necessary and important these lifeguards were.  No appreciation for all the times the lifeguards had helped with a variety of summertime city projects, such as helping at Friday Night Lives or painting fire hydrants.  He just sat in his chair and listened as five full-time city employees and seven lifeguards were given their pink slips while perhaps thinking to himself what a fine legacy his transient docks would be.


Assuming the average cost of lifeguards over the last three years remained constant, the money involved with Mayor Henderson's brilliant idea to expand the city marina could have funded the lifeguard program in Ludington for 33 years ($826,000/$25,000).  Seven summer jobs for 33 years with who knows how many lives being saved or a few currently-unneeded transient boat slips?  Is this really the choice they made?


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It's not only the choice they made then, it was also reiterated to me again by City Councilor Brent Scott, just a few days ago in phone conversation. Scott says the City cannot afford this service any longer, yet states that the reserve in the general fund of the budget exceeds $900K right now. Anything wrong with that picture/statement by Scott? Is not the life of any one human being worth the $22K to reinstate the Lifeguards for Ludington's 6 blocks of beach? How about the lives of 3 persons in 2009, more in 2008, and several more in other recent years? Why are Ludington City Councilors and the unopposed elected Mayor putting money before human life? And stating that WE in LUDINGTON follow what other West Michigan ports do or don't do on their respective beaches? We have no conscience nor minds of our own here? I think this is an atrocity, and an accident/death waiting at our front door to happen this summer. Any others have thoughts on this? Should a concerned group be formed to oppose the City, bring in petitions signed by voters, and repeal this? Or do we just stand by and wait for the first fatalitiy to be printed in the LDN this coming summer, or 2011, or 2012?
The city does have a good amount of savings in various funds. The $413,000 the city has invested in this has come from the marina fund, which Jim Gallie said had funds in excess of $1 million last April. $40,000 of this fund went as a "donation" to the construction of the Skate Plaza the previous year, so its not as if the marina fund has to go into marina upkeep or improvements-- unless it was used inappropriately the previous year (a topic I am looking at right now). BTW, the other $413,000 came from the MI DNR at the cost to our area of losing a lot more sovereignty over the site.

In previous years, the lifeguards have been funded from the general fund, but with the approval of four city councilors, they could enact legislation to make the lifeguards more permanent by funding them through the marina fund. Having them on again/off again is a sick commentary on the efficiency and priorities of the leaders of Ludington. This could be a potential initiative item, where the voters could decide whether they want the lifeguards or not. I think they are worth it.
That's not a bad idea, Coco, but here's what we need to keep in mind. Budget decisions are made late in the fall for Ludington, if we amass right now and address the council they will forget about that by budget time if the pressure is not kept up-- much like the lifesaving they did last year was totally ignored by all because it happened in June.

If we continue the pressure through the summer, whether by passing out leaflets/posting signs etc. at the beach and during city events like the Freedom Festival, FNL, Gus Macker, et. al., we can not only get the local citizens incensed, but the visitors who pay their money into the local economy and go. Enough of these contact the City, you may see a turnaround.
There's a lot of symbolic (and cheap) ways to get this point across, and some council meeting-crashing in October and November may get the point across.

It may be possible to get them back for this year (as per Aquaman), but not likely unless someone consolidates a solid effort to do so almost immediately. I know I won't be able to expend enough time and effort to do so until the fall, but I hope someone else can accomplish this.
I really want to swear-- 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10...

Why spend nearly a million dollars on slips that aren't needed for a bunch of freakin' lazy boating snobs who can't walk down a pier and out the marina entrance?

Mayor Henderson has sold his soul for this "Dock to Nowhere", and the rest of the "brain trust" of Ludington Government, including failed entrepreneur Brent Scott, Newspaper crony Paul S. Peterson, and all the other retired cops on the council better hope we do not have anyone drown at Stearn's Park this year.
It makes no sense for a town that draws thousands of residents and vacationers to its beach every summer not to provide the simplest of safety measures to protect the swimmers. I'm wondering what the city's liability would be in the case of an accidental drowning? Apparently the mayor isn't worried about that.
The farce here is that the City can well afford this pittance of an expense of $22K, and they all know it. When they got egg on their face with the public over a year ago for extending pay raises to several overpaid employees and acting like nothing in the general economy was affecting them, they suddenly woke up and realized the public wasn't happy. So, to divert attention away from those costly mistakes and make it look good now, they fire the lifeguards, building inspector, other maintenance/utility people, and say look, we get it now, see? Balderdash! I wish the LDN or some investigative reporter would interview Mr. Henderson as to how his previous statements on Lifeguards dovetails with what he has to say now. If he was serious before, why have such a change of heart now, esp. when funding is clearly there for anyone reading the trial balance/budget to see.
I also know budget decisions are made in the fall, but I think they have a special emergency fund type deal that they can draw on for an occassion like this. That would reinstate the system yet this summer. It may be disguised under a different name, but I believe I've seen them do this in the past. Besides that, the general fund alone has over $900K just sitting there with no place to go too. If someone knows a council member that could help guide us in this endeavor, that would be a boost too.
Aquaman, even if we overlook the marina fund and all other capital funds the city holds in reserve, one needs only look at some of the tax increases the City of Ludington imposed on the citizenry. Recall, not only did the city more firmly establish its monopoly on the city water supply (by restricting people from using their own well water last fall), they increased the fee (i.e. TAX) on water they supply Ludington, Scottville, etc. by 19% for this year, and sewage rates by 8%.

If the public uses the same amount of water as it had in 2008, a year where the City water utility made $1,150,000 in water sales (see attached page from the 2009 Budget), the city gets $281,500 more of the taxpayer's dollars without any more expenditure from the city. Yet where has this expected bonus check to the government went? Certainly not into the lifeguard program.
Good point X. Keep this info. on the burner if we need it. I'm just saying I hate to throw in a towel on this subject too early this season. It's barely April now, we still have a few months to get this Dept. up and running for the summer if we approach it right, with proper timing, and with the right publicity and backing from the public. For instance, the Mayor's quotes in the main thread, and the incidents of life saving of recent and past alike. Lastly, approaching the right committee chairman with ammunition they can't refute. A petition from John Q. Public always rings a bell with the council and LDN.
Aq, I invite you or anyone registered with the Ludington Daily News to go into its archives looking for the term "lifeguard" for up to ten years back. Much of the current councilors and the mayor have said more than what I could cram into my thread-heading positive about the lifeguards than what I have posted. It is just a matter of letting the public know, as the LDN would never think to back the lifeguard program with Paul S. Peterson so dead set against it. IMHO.

I think you should start a group on Ludington Talks and here dedicated to reinstating the lifeguard program. You may find a lot of supporters here and there and may be able to start a successful (beach)grass roots effort through other venues.
Paul Peterson appears to be a meathead on most issues of any worth around town. Didn't his amount of terms served expire by now, at long last? I'll try the research this weekend sometime. Any links you have already, please inform. Thanks.


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